Twelve weeks ago, the football floodgates opened once again after a lengthy and confusing six months; the National Football League began its season and accepted that the COVID-19 pandemic would be a large roadblock in the season. However, unbeknownst to them at the time, some teams would fare better than others. More than halfway into the season, the NFL is not enforcing COVID-19 restrictions well enough, having a negative effect on play as well as the overall health and well-being of players.
According to an article by Newsweek, top COVID-19 advisor Anthony Fauci, Ph.D., had stated back in April: “In my mind, it’s inevitable that we have a return of the virus.”
As a country, we are seeing this second wave right now in front of our eyes; states continuously break records for their peak number of cases.
It is no secret that the league is not immune in any way, and cases are bound to rise at least a little bit, just like Major League Baseball, National Hockey League and National Basketball Association all experienced.
The problem is, though, that the NFL is getting wildly thrown off by rising numbers of cases, with games getting rescheduled left and right and players simply getting tossed on COVID-19 and injured reserve lists, looking for as fast of a return as possible.
The problem starts in the realm of mask wearing. Regular Americans all across the country have, whether they like it or not, endured the rather annoying practice of wearing a mask. Students at Fairfield University are extremely familiar with this, having to wear masks whenever they are outside of their own dorm room; it may be frustrating now, but it will benefit everyone down the road.
NFL players, on the other hand, have not been as careful as they could be. According to an article by SportingNews outlining the NFL’s COVID-19 rules, players have the option of wearing a mask on the sideline, held up by a “strong recommendation” from the league.
In regards to teams at large, there seems to be lots of close contact among players at practices; it is incredibly difficult to be careful of this as players must be in close contact with each other in order for quality practice and training to be possible; but, amidst a raging pandemic, there may have to be some closeness sacrificed for the health of everyone in the league.
During week 12, all three of the Denver Broncos’ quarterbacks were taken out due to COVID-19 exposure with each other. According to an article by ESPN, quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were all in close contact with Jeff Driskel, another quarterback on the team who tested positive.
The three quarterbacks supposedly broke mask-wearing and social distancing protocols, leading to their exposure, which in turn forced the Broncos’ management to call up practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton to make his NFL debut in only one day’s notice, in a position he had not played since college. The three quarterbacks are awaiting team and league discipline, according to ESPN.
The Broncos have clearly had struggles this season with complying to the league’s new rule set, breaking other mask-wearing rules earlier on that led to large fines, according to 9news.
Outside of Denver, other teams are having their own bouts against the invisible enemy. What was once an exciting Thanksgiving day game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens turned into an anticlimactic Sunday game, and then an unusual Tuesday night game and, finally, a rare Wednesday night game. Third times the charm, right?
It is tough to tell what is going on inside of both teams’ organizations, but it looks like the games have only been rescheduled out of an abundance of caution, according to a CNN source.
Players must take this chance to be role models for the youth, constantly wearing masks, even if it is not required, and making sure they keep distance whenever possible, whether it be through simple walk-through practices or even in the locker room. This will result in a healthier league and a healthier America.
Coupled with travelling teams, non-diligent mask wearers and close-contact practice sessions, NFL teams have proven that this season will go down as one of the most unusual and difficult. It seems like the executives of the league are trying to push through this difficult season and hope for the best next season, when there will hopefully be nationwide access to a vaccine.